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Finding Articles & Using Databases: Home

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How Do I...?

Where to Start

The Library has numerous databases that provide full text access to articles in magazines, newspapers, trade publications and scholarly journals. Most of the articles in the Library's databases cannot be found through a Google search. 

Where to start will depend on the research you are doing and the type of information you need to find.

To search for information on a broad topic:

  • Go to the FIND menu on the Library's homepage, then click "Databases (Articles & More)." All of the Library's databases are listed here in alphabetical order. If you're looking for a specific database, you can jump to it alphabetically.

  • If you don't have a database in mind, you can choose a subject from the dropdown menu on the left side of the page. You may find your topic falls under more than one potential category (e.g. Philosophy or Religion).

  • Use a General & Multi-Topic database if your research topic could fall under multiple subjects
  • Searching for broad topics (i.e., a paper on "sociology") will overwhelm you with non-specific sociology articles from any given database. In order to determine a more specific subject within Sociology (and therefore, appropriate keywords), consider the following strategies:
    • Check your notes: Did your professor either mention or provide a list of pre-approved topics?
    • Browse through a general reference or subject specific encyclopedia on Sociology to get a better idea of the various topics
    • Write about something you either know about or have an interest in
    • Ask a librarian!

Video: How to Use a Database

(From: Lane Wilkinson, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga)

No Hits on Your Search?

In a library catalog or database, remember research is more an art than a science. So, if you receive zero results when you think you should've gotten something, CHECK THE FOLLOWING:

  • Did you spell all your words correctly? Most catalogs and databases are very unforgiving of misspelled words and will not return "did you mean?..." suggestions.
  • Did you try using alternate keywords? A good practice is to make a list of terms first. A terrific place to get the correct terminology or concept is from your Professor's syllabus or the table of contents from your textbook.
  • Are you sure you're in the right resource? Particularly in subject specific databases, make sure you are in resource that will have information relevant to your topic. For example, if you are searching for articles in business management, you aren't likely to find as many relevant results in a heath sciences database.
  • Are your terms too specific? Try starting with the highest level of whatever concept you are going for and stay away from entering phrases or entire sentences. If you are conducting a 'phrase search' and the results don't make sense, try putting those terms in "quotes"  (e.g., "urban waste") or separate your concepts. More on advanced techniques and boolean searching...
  • Are you including nonessential words? Library searches do not retrieve results in the same way Google does and as stated above, often do not perform well processing sentences. Library systems also generally ignore capital letters, acronyms and words such as 'a' 'an' 'of' or 'the' and do not understand symbols such as colons (:), semi colons or dashes. Acronyms, however, can be very effective if you are in the right subject specific database and resources such as EBSCO will guide you with subject suggestions as well.
  • Did you try a subject search? Often it is best to let the catalog or database "do the driving" for you. Once you find a single relevant item, try clicking on the subject hyperlink(s) for more results.
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